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A journal I am submitting to requires camera-ready figures. What does this term mean nowadays? Does it imply high resolution? My figures are in png format and have 96 dpi. Enlarging it can produce some jagged edges. Should I update them to eps or pdf format?

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    The journal most likely has DPI requirements for images; you should try to find these out. In any case, 96 DPI is almost certainly too low; 150 is often a bare minimum and 300 or 600 is more standard. PDF or EPS is always best if you can produce your images in that format. – ekl Jul 5 at 18:27
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    See this question on your attempt to scale the images. – Wrzlprmft Jul 5 at 18:52
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  • Thanks. The journal does not specify DPI requirements, but now I also feel 96 DPI is too low. I am re-running my code to generate pdf figures. Actually, when I regenerated the figures in png files, I find there are some very tiny differences between the new pngs and old pngs, which is puzzling given that I am using the same data and the same code. Maybe this is due to I am using different computers/screens. Would this make sense? – allen Jul 5 at 19:11
  • @allen Maybe... what software are you using to generate the plots and what kind of differences are you seeing? I know in R(ggplot) changing the figure size can change the size of the labels etc. and requires some finessing. – ekl Jul 5 at 19:20
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There isn't any real, single standard as to what "camera-ready figures" means. Different journals/publishers may use different publishing processes and workflows, which can result in different requirements for file formats, resolution etc. (Or even color spaces.) However, 96 dpi is indeed quite low. 300 dpi is a more reasonable minimum guideline for raster images - but obviously vector graphics should be preferred whenever possible.

In lieu of a standard, we can look at typical recommendations. A review by J.H. Lee in Science Editing titled Handling digital images for publication states that

The most commonly recommended resolution for printing on paper depends on the nature of the images: 1) 300 dpi for color pictures, 2) 300 to 600 dpi for black and white pictures, 3) 600 to 900 dpi for combination art (photo and text), and 4) 900 to 1,200 dpi for line art.

Note that this is the printed dpi, which isn't necessarily the same dpi as seen in the submitted manuscript. The same author also suggests a universal guide to avoid issues with publishers rescaling figures etc.:

It is the opinion of this author that a universal recommendation could help authors prepare their images. The standard figure size of most academic journals is about 86 mm (single column). The standard pixels per inch for line art is 900 to 1,200 ppi. Therefore, an image file of 900 ppi and 4 inches is of sufficient quality for most publications; this means 3,600 pixels in a horizontal line. It is recommended that authors use this number as a universal guide.

  • Thanks. This is helpful. I will switch to vector image format, pdf. – allen Jul 5 at 20:24
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Here is a rantswer: In my experience (limited to my field) it means "We're a cheap journal that doesn't care about graphics quality, so we let the authors do all the work even if the figures will be subpar." I have never had one of these journals complain about the quality of my figures.

On the other hand, when checking galley proofs, I have complained a few times that my Tikz figures ended up having the wrong font (because the production team changed the manuscript font but copypasted the figures rather than recompiling them). And, guess what, nothing happened.

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